Widely regarded as a visionary businesswoman, Sarina Bratton has drawn on her passion for discovery to redefine the concept of small ship luxury cruising.
Building on her reputation, knowledge and expertise, in November 2013 the luxury yacht and expedition French cruise line, PONANT flagged its serious intent to expand into the Asia Pacific region when it announced the appointment of Mrs Bratton as Chairman Asia Pacific and Special Advisor to the company’s Marseilles-headquartered executive board.
Considered Australia's "First Lady" of cruising, Mrs Bratton, who was awarded an Order of Australia (AM) for her significant service to tourism, particularly the cruise ship industry, and to business generally, in the 2014 Australia Day Honours, pioneered luxury expedition cruising in the Asia Pacific region when she founded market-leading five-star Orion Expedition Cruises in 2004. Mrs Bratton served as Managing Director of the company until early 2013 when she sold her remaining shares in the company.
The high point of a career that has taken her from nationally ranked sportswoman in three fields to the first female founder of a shipping line was her achievement in creating Australasia’s only world-class, five-star expedition cruise line rated as a world leader in sustainability and environmental conscience.
In her new Sydney-based role, Mrs Bratton spearheads PONANT’s international development, with a specific focus on the Asia Pacific region, as both key destinations and source markets.
Future plans for the company include the building of six 184 guest luxury expedition ships, plus a pioneering luxury Icebreaker to complement the existing fleet of new, sister ships L'Austral, Le Boreal, Le Soleal, Le Lyrial and the spectacular sailing ship Le Ponant.
Orion was Mrs Bratton’s second start-up in the cruise industry. She founded her first, Norwegian Capricorn Line, in 1997, in a joint venture between Australian interests and Miami-based Norwegian Cruise Line. The company was acquired by Star Cruises in 2000.
Mrs Bratton’s cruise experience also includes 14 years with Cunard Line, ultimately as Vice President and General Manager Asia Pacific. She was responsible for growing the business from a small-revenue sales agency to a significant operation.
Mrs Bratton felt restricted by the large ship cruise sector and realised that she needed a specific type of small, self-sufficient expedition vessel that could cruise to pristine, remote areas where the large ships could not go. Her vision continues in her new role with PONANT: to open more remarkable cruise opportunities and source markets to firmly establish PONANT as the World Leader of Luxury Expeditions.
Mrs Bratton’s business acumen has led to several senior board directorships within Australian state and federal governments. These include the State Transit Authority (NSW), Australian Maritime Safety Authority (deputy chair), Sydney Paralympic Organizing Committee (Prime Minister’s nominee) and the Australian Trade Commission. She has also served as a non-executive director of Australia’s premium eco-accommodation provider, Voyages Hotels and Resorts; was the Founding Chair of the International Cruise Council Australia (now CLIA Australasia - Cruise Lines International Association) and Non-executive Chairman of Anthology, a private equity backed walking tour operator. Mrs Bratton currently sits on the board of Diving Australia, the national sporting organisation charged with finding the next Olympic medallists in diving, and is Deputy Chairman of CLIA Australasia.
In 2008, Mrs Bratton was the recipient of the E&Y NSW Entrepreneur of the Year award in the Services category. In 2006, she was honoured with the Veuve Clicquot Business Woman of the Year Award for her entrepreneurship and vision. Also in 2006 she was recognised in the inaugural Australian Travel Innovators Award for “enhancing the way Australians, and the world, travel”. She was awarded the Commonwealth Government’s Centenary Medal in 2003 for her business leadership contributions and in 2000 was entered into the Business Woman’s Hall of Fame.
Sydney-born Mrs Bratton switched her focus to tourism after an injury ended her promising sports career. At the age of seventeen, she held national sporting titles in gymnastics, diving and trampoline. She lives on Sydney’s northern beaches with her husband Ray and daughter Bianca.